Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More civility twaddle

Chuck Colson (a man of God for whom I have much respect) and Jim Wallis (not so much) have teamed up to write a treacly piece in Christianity Today about the need for civility. Yawn. Let's see what they have to say.

Title: Conviction and Civility
We should not lose this moment for moral reflection and renewal.

Who are we? Do Colson and Wallis intend to morally reflect in this piece, and thereby renew?

We are both evangelical Christians who believe that our treatment of the poor, weak, and most vulnerable is how a society is best biblically measured.

Oh, so this is a piece on how we ought to treat the poor. I'm on board. Let's be awesome to the poor.

We believe these political differences are normal and even to be expected among citizens expressing their faith in the public arena, for God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

An admonition sometimes put into practice by one of the authors of this piece.

In the aftermath of the horrible and senseless shooting in Arizona and some of the troubling responses to it, we, as leaders in the faith community, affirm with one voice our principled commitment to civil discourse in our nation's public life.
Which again, the "senseless shooting", by virtue of being senseless, has literally nothing to do with civility. It's like saying:

In the aftermath of my being late to work due to traffic, I affirm the need to treat domesticated animals with respect.

In the aftermath of waiting 20 minutes for a table at Anchor Fish and Chips, I affirm the need to improve our public schools.

In the aftermath of the crisis in Haiti, I affirm the need to purchase more office supplies.

The President rightly said that no act of incivility can be blamed for the profoundly evil shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the tragic killing and wounding of 19 of her constituents.
So why bring it up? Why is this the introduction to your piece?

Nonetheless, we should not lose this moment for moral reflection and renewal.

If incivility had nothing to do with the shootings, why is THIS the moment for moral reflection and renewal?

We must re-examine the tone and character of our public debate, because solving the enormous problems we face as a nation will require that we work for a more civil public square.

How so? We've solved much bigger problems with acrimony. Which ended slavery, the Missouri Compromise or the Civil War?

We live in a world where evil is very real and, in Arizona, we have just witnessed a brutal example of human depravity that has broken our hearts.
Which again, as President Obama conceded, has nothing whatsoever to do with civility. It is either incoherent or disingenuous to relentlessly inject this into your argument.

Yet, at the same time, the nation has been inspired by the heroism of so many ordinary people who rose to that terrible occasion and demonstrated our most noble human virtues.

Civility not being one of them. But yes, noble human virtues are good. On this we agree.

We believe that the faith community should lead by example and model the behavior that is informed by our biblical teachings—behavior that also essential to the survival of democracy.

Is hypocrisy a biblical virtue? Just wondering.

We recall the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who could never be accused of a lack of passion; yet he persisted in the non-violent treatment of his adversaries, hoping to win them over rather than to win over them.

Non-violence is civil. Civility is not non-violence. Conflating the two isn't going to compel me to change. Also, Martin Luther King was a great man, but was not in the Bible.

The obligation to show respect for others does not come from a soft sentimentalism but is rooted in the theological truth that we are all created in the image of God.

The notion that we should respect people simply because man was created in God's image is not a Biblical principle. It wasn't one of MLK's principles, either.

That means that when we disagree, especially when we strongly disagree, we should have robust debate but not resort to personal attack, falsely impugning others' motives, assaulting their character, questioning their faith, or doubting their patriotism.
A visit to Sojourners, Jim Wallis' organization, yields this piece from Julie Clawson on the need for a Missionary Code of Conduct.

Persecution (i.e. people being offended by you) is seen as a badge of honor for many missionaries. There is little conception that the faith they present and how they present it can be toxic. Calling people to love actual people and not just see them as “projects” that must get saved is just not the way things are done.

Now, this is a lot of things (and might even be somewhat accurate), but it certainly questions faith, impugns motives, and assaults character.

To which, I'll say it again. Civility (i.e. people agreeing with you) is seen as a badge of honor for people with an agenda. Once it no longer serves that agenda, the notion of civility goes out the door.

Any serious reflection on civility should acknowledge this phenomenon.

We must take care to not paint our political adversaries as our mortal enemies.

Did Colson even read this piece before signing it?

The working of democracy depends upon these virtues of civility.

This whole piece is like a Mad Lib, where every blank is filled in with a warm and fuzzy bromide. Snow on the RAINBOW can cause ice dams, therefore the key to KITTENS is to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. Just be sure you have a good PEACE ON EARTH!

Standing for principle is crucial to moral politics, but demonizing our opponents poisons the public square.

So do meaningless cliches.

The scriptural admonition to pray for those in political authority is more than a religious duty, it promotes good civic behavior.

Good point. Also, don't drink too much, and don't get in fist fights. #scripturaladvicewithwhichprettymucheveryoneagrees

Now back to civility.

The only redemption that might come from the horror we have seen in Arizona, and some of our worst partisan reactions to it,

Our worst? I'm sorry, the Republican partisan reaction to the murder was to pray for the victims. I didn't see a single Republican looking to blame this incident on politicians, left-wing crazies. I did, however, see plenty of Facebook posts (and one highly opinionated sheriff) accusing me, Sarah Palin and Fox News of having blood on their hands.

Also, had this not happened on a weekend, I can virtually assure you that Sojourners would have joined the chorus.

That would be a fitting tribute to those whose lives have been lost or forever changed by this tragedy.

Really? Like, if you lost a family member because some lunatic thought the government was trying to control him through grammar and gunned them down, you'd take solace in the fact that at least the tone of politics became somewhat nicer?

BS. The two have nothing to do with each other.

The left has newly discovered civility, and Barack Obama aptly defined what he means by civility when he said that we need to set aside our differences and rally behind his agenda. If that doesn't happen, it will be the fault of those who hate the poor, prefer ideology over reason, and are generally just stupid people.

Right is right, and it needn't be polite. Why Chuck Colson allowed himself to get roped into this hastily assembled collection of Democratic talking points is beyond me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and then call for Peace on Earth.

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~


Anyone can break this cycle of violence! Everyone has the power to choose compassion! Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: &

"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right."
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

8:48 AM  

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